Video slots are one of the most popular games at the casino, and most online casinos will have hundreds of different slot games for you to try out. Some of these games resemble more classic fruit machines while others are incredibly detailed complete with high definition graphics, animations and loads of bonus features.
Slots are so popular for a number of reasons. First off, they’re incredibly easy to play. There aren’t lots of complicated rules and strategies for most online slots, and you can usually grasp how to play within a few minutes of spinning the reels. Secondly, they’re often very exciting. There are lots of flashing colours and lights, while fun designs and interesting characters help bring them to life. Finally, and probably most importantly, slots can payout massive jackpots.
The high payouts of slot games are one of the main reasons why they’re so popular and why most online casinos will stock hundreds of different slot games. Here at CasinoComparison, we’ve spent a lot of time spinning the reels of our favourite slot games over the years. While these games are based on luck, there are still a lot of tips you can follow the increase your chances of winning.
In this guide, we’ll be explaining everything there is to know about online video slots and letting you know exactly how they work. If slots have always seemed like a big mystery to you, then this guide will hopefully help to shine some light on slots and how to increase your winnings from them.
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How Do Online Slots Work?
Traditional slot machines typically used a mechanical setup that triggers the reels to spin when the player inserts a coin and pulls the level. Matching symbols on the reels would activate metal pins inside the machine and trigger the payout. Eventually, a motor and computerised random number generator would replace most of the mechanical parts of the old slot machines and modern slot machines have more in common with online slots.
With online slots, the outcome of the game is determined by the random number generator (RNG) which is activated when you hit spin. The virtual reels spin and you see the outcome of the game randomly spinning the reels. The RNG ensures that the game is fair and that spins aren’t predetermined or affected by any external factors.
In any slot game, the objective is to match symbols across a payline. A payline is a line across the reels, and you can find details about them in the slot information. Most five reel slots will have between ten and twenty-five paylines, but it varies depending on the game. Some slots will have a huge number of paylines, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of them which can get a little confusing. Generally, paylines will payout from left to right, but some games may also payout on lines from the right or the middle of the grid.
Before you hit spin, you’ll need to choose the amount you’re willing to bet per spin. Just remember that it’s possible to get a lot of dead spins, so be careful about choosing a high stake to start off with. You should also check to see whether the slot you’re playing at has adjustable paylines. Some slots will allow you to choose how many paylines you bet on, so a slot with twenty-five paylines you could lower the amount you bet by reducing the number of paylines you bet on. Note that this will also decrease your chances of winning.
Understanding Slot Probability
All slots are based on random chance, and in most cases, there isn’t much you can do to increase your odds of winning. The main way to improve your chances is by picking the best possible game. There are thousands of different online slots out there, but not all of them will be as rewarding as others.
Luck plays a big factor in slots, but slot games tend to have different payouts and aspects like the volatility and return to player rate will impact how much you can expect to get out of a slot game. These can seem confusing at first, but they’re actually pretty simple to understand. We’ve explained these two concepts below.
Return to Player Rate (RTP) – The return to player rate is the theoretical rate that a game will pay back to the player. It’s shown as a percentage and for most slots, will be somewhere between 95% and 97%. The number shows you how much you can expect to receive back when playing the game over a long period of time. So if you put $100 into a slot game with an RTP of 97%, you might expect to receive back $97. Of course, the games are completely random, so it doesn’t work exactly like that, but the higher the RTP rate, the better in most cases.
Volatility – The volatility of a slot tells you how often it pays out and the size of the rewards that it pays. For example, a game with low volatility pays frequently but in small amounts. A game with high volatility is the opposite, infrequent wins but the wins are much larger. You should look at both the RTP and volatility of a game when deciding whether you want to play it or not. When it comes to volatility, whether you prefer low or high is a matter of opinion. Some players prefer the excitement of big wins while others prefer to win little and often. If you want to play highly volatile games, you’ll usually need a bigger bankroll as you can go for long periods without any wins.
Understanding Slot Bonus Features
Most slots will typically have a few different bonus features that help to make the game more exciting. These features can help you to land big wins or add a new dynamic to the slot. If you haven’t played many modern video slots before, these features can get a bit confusing. Below are some of the most common bonus features you can expect to find in major slot games and a description of each.
Wilds – Wilds are one of the most common slot game bonus features you’ll come across, and even classic slots with few features often have wilds. These symbols will substitute for other symbols on a payline. For example, if you have a line with two matching symbols and a wild. Normally the two symbols wouldn’t payout, but the wild counts as the same matching symbol, so you win. Wilds can often include other bonus features too like multipliers or sticky wilds. A lot of the time, wilds will only appear on certain reels, make sure you read the rules of the game before you play to find out how the wilds work.
Scatters – Scatters are the second most common type of slot game bonus feature. These symbols are unique in that you don’t need to land them across a payline. You usually just need three scatters anywhere across the reels to activate the scatter and unlock the reward. This can be a payout, a special jackpot or even a bonus round. As with the wilds, the exact rules will depend on the game you’re playing, so make sure you check the rules before you play.
Free Spins – Free spins are the best part of any online slot game and will usually result in the biggest cash rewards. Most games will have you collect three or more scatters on a single spin to unlock the free spins. The number of spins you get will depend on the game you’re playing and sometimes will also depend on how many scatters you landed. Free spins often contain other bonus features that will help to increase your winnings and are usually the high point of a game. Getting them can be rare, but players who are lucky enough to unlock them can reap the big rewards.
Multipliers – Some slot games feature multiplier bonuses that will double, triple or multiply your winnings by another number. These bonuses can lead to some massive prizes as you can imagine. Not every game features multipliers but the ones that do typically have a higher volatility rating.
Cascading reels – While the standard slot game format is to have reels that spin, some modern games have adopted a new format. Known as cascading or avalanche reels, each time you land a win in these games, the winning symbols disappear from the reels. They’re then replaced by new symbols which fall down to take their place. This type of bonus is incredibly fun and puts a whole new spin on video slots. Cascades can cause big chain reaction wins, and some games also add multiplier bonuses after each consecutive win.
Jackpots – While standard payouts are nice, jackpot wins are even better. A lot of slot games have special jackpots which can be won by collecting scatters or other bonus symbols. Some games will have fixed jackpots that are your stake multiplied by a number. Others will have progressive jackpots which increase over time and can sometimes reach into the millions of dollars. Progressive jackpots have a much lower probability of being won, but the amount of money can be truly lifechanging. The downside is that games with progressive jackpots typically have a lower RTP rate than other slots.
Gamble – While all slot games are a form of gambling, some add in a special gambling feature to give players a little more risk and potential reward. These features can be activated anytime you land a win and allow you to gamble your winnings to win double the amount. The gamble may be based on choosing a high card or guessing the colour or suit of a hidden card. Not every game offers this feature, but it can be a big boost to your winnings if you’re lucky enough.
Expanding symbols – While most symbols will take up a single 1×1 space on the playing grid, some games feature expanding symbols. These might take up and entire reel or possibly several spaces on the playing grid. This adds extra potential for wins as the symbols will be connected to a higher number of paylines. Larger symbols also tend to payout more. In some games, symbols might be normal at first, but expand to fill the reel when involved in a win.
Nudging symbols – Ever had the annoying situation where the symbol you need to land a big win is just one place away? Nudging symbols help to prevent that by nudging one place if needed to form a win. Different games will approach this feature differently. Some symbols will always nudge to form wins while some games give players the chance to nudge the symbols they want.
Sticky symbols – Sticky symbols will stick to the reels, staying in place for one or several spins and leading to more wins. A lot of slot games will feature sticky wilds or have high paying symbols that stick in place during special bonus rounds. These can lead to some big repeating wins, especially if multiple wilds are stuck to the reels.
Megaways – The Megaways format is a special type of slot game which has become a huge hit thanks to its enormous winning potential. The game usually features thousands of potential paylines and a changing number of rows. Most Megaways games use cascading reels, and some will add multipliers to chain reaction wins, leading to some massive payouts. These tend to be games with extremely high volatility.
Tips for Winning at Slots
As we know, slots are based on luck, and there isn’t a way for you to influence how they payout in most cases. However, there are still steps you can take which improve your odds and give you a better chance of winning big. Take a look at the tips below to learn more about how you can improve your experience playing online slots and hopefully land some big wins.
- Make the Most of Your Casino BonusNearly all online casinos offer some kind of welcome offer to new players. These are a great opportunity to essentially try out games without any risk, as you’ll be using the bonus to play. A lot of casino bonuses come in the form of a matched deposit. This gives you a certain amount of bonus funds based on how much you deposit into your account. Other sites will offer free spins, which give you free plays of certain slot games. Make sure you get the full use out of your online casino bonus as this is a great way to collect some big winnings without risking any of your own money. Just watch out for the terms and conditions as some sites have restrictions on which games your bonus can be used on. Other restrictions include winning caps and wagering requirements, which may limit how much you can win with the bonus. For the best casino bonuses, check out our top casino bonus list.
- Manage Your BankrollManaging your bankroll is a crucial part of being successful when gambling. This goes for playing at land-based casinos and playing online. Your bankroll is the amount of money you have available to play with and keeping track of it is important so that you don’t lose it too quickly. Before playing, divide your bankroll into units, and decide how many units you’d like to bet per spin. For example, if you have $100 available to play with, you might split that into units of $1 and bet half a unit, $0.50, per spin. If your bankroll grows, you can bet more, while if it shrinks, you may want to bet less. On top of this, make sure you set limits on how much you’re able to comfortably lose and stop playing when you reach the limit. Ideally, you should also place a limit on how much you win before you stop, as it’s always good to walk away with profit.
- Look for Slots with Favourable RTP RatesWhenever you play any kind of casino game, it’s important to look up the return to player rate. As we discussed earlier in the guide, this gives you a rough idea of how well a game pays out. The RTP rate is essentially the opposite of the house edge, so you’ll be looking for a game with as high a number as possible. While most slots are around 96%, you can occasionally find games with higher rates, around 97% or more. Make sure you also check the volatility. Some games will have high RTP rates but high volatility, meaning you could be spinning for a while with very low rewards. Some progressive jackpot slots have very low RTP rates, but the fact that there’s the potential for a huge prize makes up for it in the eyes of some players.
- Check the Paytables and Rules Before You PlayAs with any game, it’s always important to know the rules before you play. Every slot game should have a paytable and instructions which will help to explain the different symbols and bonus features to look out for. Paytables should show you how much you can win from a line of symbols based on your stake. They’ll also tell you whether you need to have a line of three or more or whether symbols will payout for just two on a line or anywhere on the reels. Knowing exactly how to play and what to look out for are important if you want to land big wins. Sure, it’s possible to win without knowing the paytable, but it’s possible you’ll miss out on a feature or bonus by not paying attention to the rules.
- Try the Games Out for FreeAny good online casino should always have a free demo version of each game available. Demos are a great way to try out a game risk-free and decide for yourself if it’s worth it to play with real money. You can test out the bonus features and decide if the game is right for you and whether you’ll get any enjoyment out of playing it for real. If you’re not sure whether your casino offers demo versions of games or not, you can always ask customer support. Free demos always use the exact same features and programming as the real thing. You can be sure that licenced online casinos don’t cheat by making the demos payout more as that would be breaking the rules of the licence.
- Make the Most of the Buy FeatureSome slots will allow you to not only unlock the bonus round by collecting scatters but also by paying a set amount. This amount will usually be your stake multiplied by a number, often 50x or so. While this can often be a big amount to pay, a lot of bonus rounds will be worth it. Ultimately, it comes down to just how good the bonus round actually is. Lots of games will only give out small rewards, but some free spins rounds can include big multipliers and huge potential jackpots. If that’s the case, it can sometimes be worth it to use the buy feature, even if you have to lower your stake first.
- Avoid the Gamble FeatureNot every online slot will offer the gamble feature, but some developers such as Play’n GO use it regularly. While this might seem like a great way to boost your winnings, it’s also a great way to lose them. Most gamble games have a fairly low RTP rate, although it will depend on the type of game you’re playing. If it’s just guessing the colour of a card, you have a 50% chance of getting it right. For landing a higher card than the dealer, it will all depend on the dealer’s card. We recommend avoiding the gamble feature as much as possible, although sometimes it can be a good idea to gamble your smaller wins if the feature gives you a 50% chance.